Meet the Trailblazing Female Artists of Bahrain

female-artistsI recently wrote an article about the trailblazing female artists of Bahrain for The Establishment. The article was an absolute pleasure to write; I interviewed four of the Bahrain-based artists that most fascinate me – Ramah Al Husseini, Sarah Nabil, Frances Stafford, and Yasmin Sharabi – and tried to capture what I love about the quirky, eclectic movement they are creating.

I’m rushing down the winding alleyways of Adliya, the Kingdom of Bahrain’s funkiest district, on my way to the album launch party for the island’s only homegrown baroque’n’roll band. It’s November, but the evening is warm and jasmine-scented. Groups of people wander streets crowded with cafes, shawarma stands, and bougainvillea-draped villas that look grandiose in the moonlight.

I’m halfway through a whirlwind 24-hour exploration of Bahrain’s dynamic art scene, as seen through the eyes of some of the country’s most talked about young, female creators. Bahrain is the smallest nation in the Middle East—you’ll need to squint at the map and look for the islands off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia to find it—but its influence on history has been tremendous. As the heart of the ancient Dilmun civilization, Bahrain spent millennia as a trade hub, saturated by the ebb and flow of cultures, which left the nation with an eclectic feel unique in the Arabian Gulf.

The Gulf region has made waves in the art world recently, with Qatar building a collection of international masterpieces at such an impressive rate that it has become the world’s largest buyer of contemporary art, and Art Dubai and the Sharjah Biennial making the region a key stop on the international art fair circuit. In the midst of this, Bahrain marches to the beat of its own drummer by balancing an embrace of international arts culture with a celebration of homegrown creative talent—the latter of which has made the country an epicenter of a new art movement.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Adliya // The Nest // Black Anaar

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It’s the first of December but the night is warm and almost humid. Traffic into Adliya is creeping past the Gulf Hotel and my driver suggests it would be quicker if I hop out and cross the road on foot.

I slip out of the car and into the crowds hurrying toward the distant glitter of twinkle lights coming from Al Riwaq’s The Nest. The Nest comprises a street market, live music, art installations, workshops, outdoor film screenings, and more. Designed to foster creativity, enliven Adliya’s public spaces, and bring together diverse creators and small businesses, it is an immersive, magical experience.

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Bahrain Definitions – Art, Music, and Culture

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To me, Bahrain means many things. It means, of course, swaying palm trees and warm sea breezes and scorching hot summer days. It also means meeting the most friendly, welcoming people you could imagine, and exploring ancient temples and crumbling forts beneath star-strewn skies. It means delicious feasts from tiny cafes deep in the winding alleys of the souq, spicy channa and crispy sambosa, all washed down with a cool, tangy lassi. Bahrain means thousands of years of history, of traditions and cultures and languages, that have all intermingled on the same tiny island for millennia. To me, Bahrain also means vivid creativity and inspiring artists that are always pushing the boundaries of their work and striving to express their most profound truth.

Malja Bahrain’s ‘Definitions’ exhibition was a perfect example, and I was honored to take part.

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From Cellar to Lagoon

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I started across the causeway late and checked into my hotel with just enough time to have a quick bite to eat and enjoy the always spectacular view from my room. I always request to stay in this same room because even on an overcast day I never get tired of the view.

Then it was time to hop in the car and head to Amwaj island…for the first time that weekend. The very lovely people at Art Rotana invited me to the opening of their new wine bar, Cellar 59. I was impressed from the start.

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The Magic of Malja

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For weeks we had been in a state of eager anticipation. There was something totally unique about to launch onto the Bahrain art and music scene and to say we were excited would be an understatement. The social media updates were tantalizing – a picture of art installations coming to life, thought-provoking interviews with the hard-at-work designers, and a countdown marking off the days until the big event – the grand opening of Malja.

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Farmtek 2014

Going to Farmtek felt a little like slipping into a hidden world filled with dreamlike music and fantastical artwork tucked within the folds of a forgotten garden. A few days before the event the up-till-then-secret location was finally announced. On a gorgeous winter day we drove down the winding streets of Saar, trying to figure out if we were on the right track or hopelessly lost. Towering on either side of our car were compound walls covered in razor wire and tumbling curtains of bougainvillea.

“There!” I shouted, spotting a twinkling sign around the next corner.

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A Sofitel Escape

Have I mentioned that my husband Cody is a rock star? By day he looks like your average (although dashingly handsome) office working company man, but by night he brings the rock and dazzles the masses with his brilliant bass riffs and swaggering rock-god machismo. Back in December he and his band 26 North had a big performance in Bahrain. They were playing at the National Day celebrations at the F1 Track. The whole band and its entourage (read: wives and friends) were planning to stay the weekend at the Sofitel since it is only 5 minutes from the track. So, feeling like a traitor to our usual home-away-from-home, the Ritz, we ventured across the causeway for a weekend at the Sofitel.

I’d never been there before (I fear change!) but when I saw this view I figured things might be alright after all.

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Adliya Street Bazaar

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Back in December we ventured to Bahrain to take part in an event designed for hungry bloggers like me – the Adliya Taste Tour, a restaurant tour of the trendy Adliya 338 district. More than a dozen of Bahrain’s best loved restaurants participated in this event, where diners took their ‘culinary passports’ from spot to spot to enjoy taster plates of each restaurant’s most popular dishes.

When we arrived outside of La Vinoteca Barcelona to catch our ride in one of the golf carts that ferried diners from venue to venue, we quickly realized we were in for much more than a night of fine dining. Music bubbled from around every corner, throngs of happy people moved through the narrow streets, and down every alley we could see funky art displays and the twinkling lights of small booths filled with tantalizing treasures.

So before we even went to our first restaurant we took a peek down a few of the streets and realized we had luckily hit upon the Adliya Street Bazaar, a week of festivities taking place as part of Bahrain’s Noor El Ain festival.

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